To the Front of the Line! Sending to Your Most Engaged Subscribers First.

Posted by Courtney Miller on

Following this month’s Ask the Experts webinar, we wanted to respond to some questions about best-sending strategies to get to the inbox.

One of those such questions was on the approach of sending to your most engaged subscribers at the beginning of your send as means to improve inbox placement and reputation.

Before examining why to do this, let me explain a bit of the how.

Email marketers use all kinds of metrics to define an engaged subscriber. This could be recent clicks, opens, site visits, purchases, and many other metrics. The first step is to define those engagement thresholds. Understand the metrics that matter most to your business, but balance that with how those metrics resonate in user’s inboxes. If you are looking at click data, for example, organize the list you want to send to from most recent clickers to people who have not clicked as recently. Alternatively, if one of your customers is regularly purchasing but has never interacted with your mail, you’ll want to take that into consideration.

After application of your re-engagement strategies, refrain from sending mail to people who have not engaged with your mail in a long time. I typically suggest removing inactive subscribers at between 6-12 months of non-engagement, although this can depend on your business type and should be based on when you typically see engagement decrease.

Once you’ve organized your subscriber data by engagement, you are ready to apply our recommended approach. We suggest front loading your sending with your most engaged subscriber’s first because:

  1. These are the subscribers most likely to click, open, forward, reply, and overall engage with the mail. When mailbox providers see this high engagement, they are more likely to place additional mail in the inbox and grant you a higher throughput rate early on.
  2. You want to make sure these subscribers are getting your mail. They like your mail and want your mail and are the ones most likely to help you meet your marketing goals. If the reputation of your IP address diminishes during sending due to unengaged users, there is a possibility your mail to the engaged subscribers could go to the spam folder.
  3. As your list is deploying, it is important to pay attention to delivery metrics. If throttling does occur during your send, reduce sending speed to avoid bounces. This will improve deliverability and it is more important for the less engaged, later part of your list to be delivered than to be delivered quickly.

Another school of thought on this topic is that the best subscribers on your list should be combined with lower engaged subscribers to help with engagement metrics and therefore improve inbox placement along the way. Although this is a strategy you can employ, I wouldn’t suggest it because:

  1. Lesser engaged subscribers on your list could complain first on the mail, causing an increased complaint rate on your IP address and domain making it more likely for mail to go to the spam folder.
  2. Mail might first be sent to subscribers who are already getting your messages to their spam folder. This could encourage additional spam folder placement.
  3.  Your best subscribers, those most likely to purchase, could never see the message, causing you to lose ROI on that send.

Listen to our recent webinar to hear a panel of email experts answer more on this and other tough email questions.


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About Courtney Miller

Courtney Miller is a Product Marketing Manager at Return Path where she uses her immense knowledge of Return Path products to shape everything from their messaging, positioning, and innovation. Courtney’s previous role as a Technical Account Manager gave her the skills and background to be a successful product marketer, requiring her to be an expert on Return Path’s products and solutions, and to understand the customer’s problems and needs. She loves working with teams across the company to bring products to market that truly enhance the lives of email marketers. In her spare time, Courtney loves to enjoy the Colorado Rocky Mountains and the incredible food and entertainment scene of downtown Denver.

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